Baby's First Teeth: Should You Use Toothpaste?

baby laying down and smiling with a toy in their mouth

It's so exciting when your baby's first tooth pops through their gums, and they smile at you with that adorable little chomper. As a parent, you can make dental care a pleasant experience for your baby right from the start with gentle brushing and fun songs and games. But you may be wondering about the essentials like — when to begin brushing and when to start using toothpaste? Or, fluoride is great for protecting teeth from cavities, but when is it safe for children? Here's what you need to know about introducing toothpaste safely to your child.

Baby's first brush

Even before your baby starts getting teeth, you can begin practicing good oral health habits. Use a soft-bristled infant toothbrush or finger brush and a light touch when cleaning your baby's gums. You only need to use water at this stage — no toothpaste necessary. Gently massage their gums and get your baby used to the feeling of the toothbrush in their mouth. Show your baby that brushing is a pleasant experience, not something that should be frightening or irritating.

First tooth

As soon as that first, precious little tooth erupts, your baby is ready for real brushing! Here's your getting-started checklist:

  • Start with fluoride-free infant toothpaste
  • Get a brush with extra soft bristles
  • Brush twice a day
  • Schedule their first dentist visit

If you choose to use a toothpaste with fluoride, follow the American Dental Association (ADA) recommendation to use a smear — about a rice-sized amount — of toothpaste.

How to choose baby toothpaste

When your child is ready to start using toothpaste, there are a few options to consider. You can choose a fluoride-free toothpaste that's designed for kids under two years old, as well as toothpastes that are free of artificial colors, preservatives or sodium lauryl sulfate. You can also choose to use a fluoride toothpaste, as long as you consistently apply a rice-sized amount of toothpaste.

Most young children don't enjoy strong flavors — the minty-fresh toothpaste you might enjoy could make your child cringe. Taste your little one's new toothpaste before using it in their mouth.

When to use fluoride toothpaste

You can begin using fluoride toothpaste from the beginning, just start with a tiny amount, the size of a grain of rice, says the ADA, and encourage your child to spit after each brushing. Kids between 3-6 years old can use a pea-sized amount. It's important to ensure that your kiddo can spit out their toothpaste, so they don't ingest fluoride.

Dental fluorosis can happen when a young child ingests too much fluoride before their adult teeth erupt. This condition causes white or brown discoloration or spots on the enamel, or tooth surface.

To be sure of the right time to switch your child over to fluoride toothpaste, discuss your child's dental care needs with your dentist or pediatrician.

Treasure the Memory

Teeth brushing is a milestone! Take some pictures and videos at every stage of that beautiful little smile. From brushing with water to using fluoride, you can care for your baby's mouth to set them up for a lifetime of positive oral health habits!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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